Monday, February 11, 2008

Rain dampens attendance at February 11, 2008, Ward Four meeting

Red Oak Park in the Northwest Arkansas Times

The Government Channel video from Monday's Ward Four meeting ran once on Cox Cable Channel 16 Tuesday Feb. 11, 2007) and is to run again late Wednesday evening (tonight), after the replay of the City Council session to set the agenda for the coming week and after a replay of a week-old subcommittee meeting of the Telecom Board to discuss the performance report on the CAT channel 18. For more listings for the Government Channel 16 on Cox Cable replay of the Red Oak Park/Ward Four meeting, please see

aubunique blogspot

Please see links of interest at right for Red Oak Park photos and rain-garden brochures.

The first photo I posted (bottom photo) was a view from the street south of the park showing the south end of the park. From that spot I heard water loudly pouring from the storm-drain outlets that drop water into the park. The Night Shot function of my camera and my built-in flash don't work at a significant distance. And, without someone to on hand to rescue me, I didn't choose to got down into the gully for better pictures of water leaving the storm sewer from the upstream subdivisions.
The middle photo shows a small flow after several bursts of heavy rain had ended.
The top photo shows the upstream (south opening) of the pipe that carries water under New Bridge, which is near the north end of the Red Oak Park. This spot must become a big pond for a brief time when a really heavy, extended period of rain occurs.

The WARD FOUR meeting between 7 and 8:30 p.m. Monday Feb. 11, 2008, got something accomplished. The relatively small group of people who attended — during a significant thunderstorm with the threat of ice to follow — agreed (mostly quietly) that the two City Council members representing Ward Four — Councilwoman SHIRLEY LUCAS and Alderman LIONELD JORDAN — should go ahead and bring up to the full council a Red Oak Park plan that would include allowing the Game and Fish plan prepared by Dave Evans to go forward as soon as practical for the park division of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

Additionally, LUCAS AND JORDAN agreed that the plan should go forward with a plan to continue to provide information about the value of rain gardens to residents of the surrounding subdivisions and make an effort to bring about the creation of enough new areas where water is encouraged to soak in upstream (to the south) that the speed and amount of water rapidly reaching the park during heavy rain would no longer create a dangerous flash flood in the park.

My plan would be the same but in the opposite order — save the money and keep the removal of trees and widening of the streambed until the rain-garden plan is executed. Then we will know whether any or how many trees have to be removed to "save the trees."

But I would have voted for the combined plan if I lived in the neighborhood (and got to vote) and used that park. And especially if I lived downstream and was watching my land be covered by debris and gravel every time the stream flow is heavy.

Widening the channel and trying to force the stream to meander will help. However, the land is so steep that it would take pretty big reservoirs in the flow area rather than a batch of boulders and small channel changes to make a real difference. Dave Evans' Stream Team plan works great where there is enough space to create WIDE meanders and where the drop in the stream is relatively gradual. And it will work fine during light rain such as we had last night (Monday evening during and after the meeting).

One has to remember, however, that piling rocks in the Arkansas River, White River, Red River and Mississippi River to redirect the flow is a specialty of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And the corps frequently has to redo that activity in those big rivers.

The stream through Red Oak Park is different in several ways. It is dry 99 percent of the time. If you don't go there early this morning you may not find even a small flow. At this minute, 2:07 a.m. Tuesday, there is probably a lot more flow than when I visited at about 9 p.m. Monday. Precipitation, frozen and wet, continues to fall where I live in south Fayetteville.
Also, the stream at Red Oak Park is narrow, and it is extremely steep and the bedrock is exposed for the full length of the park because of the past few years of erosion. As in the case of snowfall and other matters of major significance to human beings and Mother Nature, one can't predict how much satisfaction will come from this renovation project or how long its effects will last.

We may not have enough extended periods of heavy rain in 2008 to create flashfloods that would continue the damaging erosion of the park. Everyone knows that 2004 was the year that most streambed erosion occurred everywhere in the area. Multi-inch rains of up to 6 inches in far less than 24 hours occurred three times in this area during 2004, once in the last week of April and twice in the first week of July. A story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette documented the surprise of people living in a high-dollar subdivision on the White River upstream from Beaver Lake when the lake itself rose into their ground-level rooms. Their title-companies hadn't explained at closing on their purchases of their homes that flooding of the area would be permitted any time the Corps of Engineers decided the flood gates at Beaver Dam needed to be closed to protect property in far north Arkansas and southern Missouri from White River flooding.

We may see the year that Beaver Lake gets so little rain that we'll be like Atlanta, Georgia, wondering where the reservoir went, and the rural people in the surrounding four counties will be wondering why they disconnected the pump from their old well or pond or spring and made themselves dependent on an artificial, manmade storage facility and miles of pipes. So, whatver we do now may be sufficient for some time. Maybe nothing will actually be needed for years!

However, in the four meetings (three Ward 4 meetings and one council meeting) I have attended and spoken about the problem, I have been the ONLY person who has volunteered to walk the neighborhood, knock on doors and hand out copies of a brochure on rain gardens and try to explain why they need to keep the water on their property. It has been said that people in some of the subdivisions there are concerned about saving the trees to allow the area to continue to serve as a nature park. But I haven't seen anyone express this concern since a few appeared at a council meeting months ago. If someone knows any of those people, please bring them to this Web log and let's hear it from them!

We first talked publicly about ways to keep the water where it falls to stop the flash floods nearly six months ago. A video shown a few times on Government channel showed people walking the park and discussing trying to save it long ago!

If the neighborhood representatives and property-owners' associations in the area haven't turned up a few people willing to make the effort to put in rain gardens or at least speak at the many public meetins, I don't know that I would benefit by starting to canvass the neighborhod on my own — so many problems, so little time.

I went to check the flow in the park after the meeting. I hope others did, too. There were some hard bursts of rain; but, as of 11 p.m. there had not been enough extended periods of heavy rain to create the kind of flash flood that has created the problem of major stream-bed erosion in the past.

So my photos from last night don't show a dangerous flow. If I could stay up all night and sit in my car on New Bridge Drive or Road or Street until dawn, I might get photos that would show the situation well enough to get people interested. But it may not rain any more tonight.

So, if you are one of the neighbors who has commented or at least found and read this site and maybe looked at our photos on Flickr (see list of links of interest at right for more Red Oak Park photos, please share this site and offer your comments here. Just click on the word "comments" below this post and don't hold back. Say what you think.

It it is raining hard when you wake up, please take a camera to New Bridge and photograph it yourself. I will assist you in posting your photos if you e-mail me or comment on this site that you have some. The coding is simple to copy and paste if you have photos online elsewhere.

If not, the best thing would be to email a photo or two and let me post them. I promise to do that as soon as they appear in my e-mail.

Shirley Lucas, Lioneld Jordan and the rest of the Fayetteville City Council have patiently waited for interested citizens and the park division of the Fayetteville Department of Parks and Recreation to offer a reasonable plan. If this is the best we can do, then let it go to the council and let's get to work on it.


Bored environmental blog fan said...

Man, I checked in on this site not long after the meeting was supposed to be held and it had a short writeup on the meeting. Now I come back after a couple of hours of watching TV and you are still adding more. Don't you ever sleep? Do you even know whether your favorite Utah Jazz NBA team won? I won't tell you. You probably don't even know whether they played tonight or not. Go get a snack and turn on ESPN and chill.

If these people won't step up and get busy educating one another and build some rain gardens in their yards, just forget it.

You can get back to nursing the World Peace Wetland Prairie toward all-native plants and feeding your pet sparrows and cardinals and doves and (whatever you call those small birds? wrens, chickadees?) and maybe spotlight a few hundred more environmental disasters around town and forget this bunch.

Up all night anyway said...

You only think you're bored? I clicked on the aubunique blogspot and it is even more loaded down with Red Oak Park stuff. I think they ought to put a control on that pipe under New Bridge Road, let the park hold a few feet of water all the time upstream and we could wade out to the the pavilion and sit on the table and cast to the deep water. Don't stock any trout of course, just "sustainable native species" such as largemouth and bass and green sunfish. Most of the good ponds in this area have been filled with clay and leveled for subdivisions, so we need a fishing pond for our kids out here.
What do you think, Mr. Shepherd?

aubunique said...

You guys both make interesting points. Obviously, it would be wonderful for neighbors to have a fishing pond for the kids. But the Corps of Engineers does keep regulatory control over streams being dammed.
They don't really try to stop many big dam projects being advocated by local public officials who can get a congressman's support. But they would require a massive environmental-impact study before approving that idea. But they don't do anything to stop construction on wetland except when it is a major parcel with direct access to a major navigable stream. They just allow"mitigation" when the existence of wetland is forced on their attention.
The corps always puts the problem off on others, since the current federal administration doesn't want to impede any kind of growth.
The words from state and federal agencies with environmental responsibility are pretty much the same.
"Your town can make stronger rules and enforce them."
It comes down to a matter of the city having the will to create appropriate ordinances to do the job.
Ask Jeff Erf about a place he lived and once served on a local board whose mission was to protect watershed, stream riparian zones, wetland and other such matters.
Or do a google search for local-government watershed regulations. I have an example on the my aubunique blogspot, which is among the sites listed under links of interest on this site.